An unavoidable step

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An unavoidable step

The U.S. Forces Korea’s hurried move to install the core components of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (Thaad) antimissile system at a site designated for its deployment in Seongju, North Gyeongsang, will mark a significant turning point in defending South Korea from increasing threats from the North. On Wednesday morning, the USFK swiftly moved up to six mobile launch platforms, interceptor missiles and the powerful X-band radar system to a golf course once owned by Lotte Group. The speedy deployment and the U.S. 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade’s plan to test them from May reflect Washington’ ever-deepening concerns about security on the Korean Peninsula.

The swift deployment — 51 days after the arrival of the battery’s core components at Osan Air Base and six days after a land transfer was completed — has put to an end all the controversy over the Thaad battery. A rumored postponement of the deployment due to a strategic consensus between Washington and Beijing could be laid to rest. The deployment showed Uncle Sam’s intention to clear up all controversy by concluding the deployment before the May 9 presidential election.

The deployment is an unavoidable step for the alliance to take amid heightened tensions due to a possible sixth nuclear test by Pyongyang. Under such circumstances, Thaad is the best weapons system available to protect the South from the North’s increasing threats. Given the faster-than-expected pace of the North’s nuclear development, rapid deployment is the answer. As long as security crises continue on the peninsula, the need for the Thaad battery aimed at protecting U.S. reinforcements in times of crisis will only grow.

The deployment took place amid tension on the peninsula. With the possibility of Kim Jong-un giving up his nuclear ambition very low, U.S. President Donald Trump increasingly flexes his muscles. Despite his effort to encourage Beijing to use its influence on Pyongyang, Trump could resort to the use of force. He simply cannot allow Kim to threaten the U.S. mainland after wrapping up his nuclear weapons and long-range missile developments.

With such a harsh reality, Thaad can serve a pivotal part in the Korea-U.S. alliance. However, some presidential candidates on Wednesday expressed their “regrets” or “strong regrets” about the Thaad deployment in a debate. Such negative attitudes only fuel the people’s security concerns. If they really want to promote the peace and security of this country, they should have more realistic and strategic thinking.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 27, Page 34
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